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Oct 5, 2006 03:24 PM

How to Cook Turkey for 100

This is right up your alley...

For years we've held a pre-Thanksgiving pot-luck dinner, the weekend BEFORE Thanksgiving. We cook the turkey and stuffing; everyone else brings the rest. In recent years we have deep-fried two turkeys; first one, then the other. Each takes one-hour plus.

Well, I'm getting married, and we decided to have the wedding at the pot-luck, but that now means that I have to cook turkey for 100!

Here are our thoughts:

1) Find someone with one of those HUGE portable smokers (the kind that has a trailer hitch on it!) and let them do it. Problem: (besides finding them -- any leads?) is that turkey isn't THAT popular a BBQ catering item, and I don't want anyone practicing at my wedding!

2) Buy 14 more deep fryers to go with the one that I already own, and fire up all 15 of them at the wedding! Of course I would have the time of my life with this, and my fiance would divorce me BEFORE the wedding!

3) Deep-fry the turkeys one at a time, but if the turkey needs, say, 90 minutes, cook it for 75 minutes. Right before we serve, re-fry each for 15 minutes to reheat it.

4) Build a temorary pit like the one shown here:

and do 10 turkeys in it. (Will this work? It was fine when we roated a pig, but... turkeys? Who knows?


5) Go to the turkey dinner being held this week at the fire house and see how THEY do it! (But I have a sad feeling that they buy pre-fab turkey breasts and just reheat them in the oven....)

Any brilliant advice welcome here!


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  1. Caterer. Seriously. This is too much for you to try to take on on your wedding day.

    1 Reply
    1. re: lisette

      I'm with lisette on this one-
      As other posters have already said- even if you know what you're doing, it is very hard to undercook/chill/reheat that much turkey safely.

      As a caterer- if I had an entire extra fridge and at least two ovens- here's how I'd try to do it- buy 8-10 turkey breasts- on the bone but not wings/legs/thighs- brine/marinate as you will- roast 2/oven at 325 until the internal temp reads 150- hot enough to kill many bugs, but not overcooked.- pull each turkey, allow to cool just enough to cut the breasts off the bone, then slice into 1/4" slices, then layer them on a sheetpan or into shallow casserole dishes- chill these pans until the morning of.
      On the day of, pour a generous amount of liquid- water's fine with some butter & herbs, apple cider, turkey gravy... and heat covered for about 20-30 minutes until everythings nice and toasty.

      I reiterate that kitchens with walk in coolers, and more than 4 ovens are best suited to do this- with that much turkey in your fridge, there will be absolutely no room for any ot the other fixings- Caterers have the equipment and the capacity to do things like this, will probably be willing to use your recipe, and hey- since Thanksgiving isn't really a catering-heavy holiday, they'll appreciate the business.
      For heaven's sake- don't turn your wonderful tradition into a nightmare- you don't need that kind of stress right before your holiday and especially not before your wedding.

    2. I cook at a free meal program and we have made Thanksgiving dinner for 120 people, but there was 4 of us doing to cooking. We each roasted 3 turkeys and then we also had a side dish to prepare.
      Roasting 3 turkeys is a busy day, but I have never tried to fry a turkey. You have my eternal respect and admiration if you can pull this off, not burn something down, and still be on good terms with your bride on your wedding day.

      I would contact a restaurant supply house and then maybe call restaurants or private clubs and try to rent/borrow a turkey fryer for the evening. The cost of buying 14 fryers is prohibitive, plus the expense of your wedding.

      Preparation is the key to cooking for large groups, but I would seriously suggest hiring a flexible and inventive caterer for this event. You will be very stressed already, and you don't need the distraction.

      Congratulations on your wedding.

      1. Definitely do NOT partially pre-cook your birds: this is begging for food poisoning! Your local supermarket will probably roast the birds for you.

        1 Reply
        1. re: pikawicca

          I agree with pikawicca. We had a turkey from one of the better supermarkets for Thanksgiving one year and it was suprisingly good. I'd do the sides yourself though. I'm sure if you talked to a market that planned to sell those complete dinners for Thanksgiving, they may be willing to do them early.

        2. Wouldn't the food poisoning issue depend on how they were kept in between the two cookings?

          If you really want to cook them yourself, you might want to check larger churches near by. They frequently have underutilized kitchens that they might be willing to rent out, and might have enough oven space to make this task a bit more manageable.

          Good Luck!

          1 Reply
          1. re: bruce

            I think that one you get a food item into the "danger zone" (i.e. partially cooking) and leave it there for any length of time (something big like a turkey isn't going to cool off quickly enough) and leave it there, you're in trouble. With something that's cooked through, you got some wiggle room (2 hours at cool room temp) before you have to start worrying.

            This is the voice of experience speaking: My little brother sickened 34 family members by partially cooking chicken, refrigerating it, then reheating on the grill. I wasn't present for this gala event, but I heard about it in gruesome detail from those afflicted.

          2. I don't think you'd need 15 turkey fryers. You could probably get away with 12 by devoting a couple of fryers to turkey breasts only- 2 per fryer. By frying only breasts, you're meat yield would increase dramatically.

            Turkey frying gets a bad name not because it's inherently dangerous, but because alcohol is involved. If you have plenty of space and can track down/hire 12 conscientious/sober individuals to work each fryer, I think it's definitely doable.

            Buffet style, 4 tables (in completely different areas, allowing access to the table by both sides with enough space for 25 person lines, with 4 carvers)... staggering the fryers so that 3 turkeys/2 breasts finish every, say, 15 minutes. Sure... it might work.

            And the taste of a freshly fried turkey vs. a pre-cooked warmed up one? Forget about it! :)

            Cooking for 100 people requires some serious logistics. I'm not sure what your catering experience is like, but if you've never cooked for this many people before, you'll definitely need to track down someone who has. Executing a 30 person event requires some serious planning/manpower. When you get into the 100 realm it only gets more complicated. It's mise en place on crack.